I'm an international graduate student studying theoretical physics in a US university, and I'm in my 4th year of PhD study and plan to graduate at the end of the 5th year. Yesterday, I heard something from my advisor really hurts me.
Yesterday afternoon, I was working in my office while my professor was having a meeting with a prostdoc in our group in the small meeting room just outside my office. We are in a suit-like office so that there is a very small common meeting room outside our offices. The meeting room is very small and very close to my office, so that I can hear what they said rather clearly. Usually I will close my office door when there is a meeting outside, but yesterday I left my door opened because my professor planed to have a meeting with me after they finished the meeting with the postdoc, and there was only a short period of time between they started the meeting with the postdoc till the time we scheduled to meet.
And then in the middle of their talk, I heard my professor talking about she was very happy about a new graduate student is about to join the group, so that the new student can help the postdoc to run part of the numerical calculations, because "XX is not productive as before", where "XX" is my name.
As a background, before the new postdoc joined our group about 3 months ago, I had a great time working together with our former postdoc, who is also international with the same nationality as I'm. We worked very closely together with many of the projects, and published several papers together in about two years. Just before the end of last year, my professor assigned me to work independently onto a new project which is in a new area that no one in our group has any experience before. It went smoothly until early this year when I plan to take my general exam. I originally plan to take my general exam at late February, but until the very end of approaching the exam data, the exam was rescheduled one month later and moved into March, due to misunderstanding of emails between our department and the graduate school. So in that two months period, I almost stopped updating the new project and totally devoted into the preparation of my general exam. After I passed my general exam at the end of March, I thought I could pick up my research, then I was caught by another unfinished project we started last summer. This project is a collaboration between our group and an experimental group, and we did have some disagreement of the results between the experimental data and the theoretical simulations from the beginning. Then this project get stop-and-go until just after my general exam, we get pushes from the experimental side that they want to finish the project and submit a paper soon. Since the former postdoc is already left, I was placed to in charge of it. I have to deal with all the conflicts between the experiment and theory results and exchange drafts of the paper with the experimental side, and almost have no time to deal with the new project I was doing. The last important update of my project is about 7 weeks ago.
I think I'm a hard working student, at least in the standards of my friends in my department. I work almost 10 hours a day and almost 7 days a week. After I hear about her criticism yesterday, I almost started to rethink whether it still worth my devotion into this.
So, what should I take from my professor's criticism of my performance, in her talking with others, under the obvious condition that I can hear it? She never criticized me before as far as I know. And what suggestions do you have to deal with this situation?